State Rep. André Jacque (R-De Pere), despite being underfunded and being opposed by leaders of his own party, defeated businessman Alex Renard in the Republican Primary in the special election in state Senate District 1. Jacque won with nearly 52 percent of the vote according to unofficial numbers reported by the Green Bay Press Gazette. The unofficial margin of victory was 330 votes.
Jacque was not the favorite of some in his own caucus after pushing at a public hearing for the complete elimination of the state’s prevailing wage law for both state and local government construction projects. The public hearing did not have the blessing of Assembly Republican leadership and it also upset unionized roadbuilder companies. Lobbyist and former Assembly Speaker John Gard (R-Sun Prairie) recruited Renard to compete with Jacque in the special primary election.
In addition to Renard outspending Jacque, third-party spending from a group called Midwest Growth Fund also became a factor in the race.
However, Jacque was able to overcome those difficulties with grassroots support, especially from pro-life organizations who endorsed only Jacque in the race because of his track record of supporting their causes. Jacque also received support from Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, a trade organization of mostly non-union companies that agreed with Jacque on repealing the prevailing wage law and supporting the Right to Work law.
Despite the divisions in the Republican Party, there was at least a show of unity after Jacque’s victory.
“I am humbled by the outpouring of support I received over the last two months by my friends and neighbors across Wisconsin’s 1st State Senate District,” Renard said in a statement after the election. “I am proud of the campaign we ran and would like to congratulate Rep. Jacque on his victory and wish him luck in the June 12th election.”
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke also posted on Twitter his support for Jacque:
Congrats to Rep Jacque on his win tonight! Time to circle the wagons for what will be a tough general election fight. Republicans will (and must) unite.
Jacque now faces Democrat Caleb Frostman in the June 12 general election. The winner will have to run for re-election in the August 14 primary and the November election.
The special election became necessary when Governor Scott Walker appointed state Sen. Frank Lasee (R) to a position in the Administration. Walker attempted to spare local communities the expense of holding a special election for a seat that wouldn’t be occupied until after the legislature finished its business for the year, but Democrats and for Obama Administration Attorney General Eric Holder successfully sued to force the election.
Brown County Clerk Sandy Juno told Fox 11 Newsthe county will spend a total of $18,060 for the two special elections. That’s in addition to the cost to local communities which did not plan for the special elections in their budgets.